‘Lying about military service an insult to real heroes’
LYING about serving time overseas in the armed forces is among the greatest insults to the men and women who risked their lives for the good of all Australians.
That was the sentiment shared by Magistrate Terry Duroux in the final moments of the case against Maryborough RSL Club general manager Craig Michael Lenihan.
Lenihan this week pleaded guilty to falsely representing to be a returned soldier, sailor or airman as well as an unrelated drugs charge.
He was sentenced in court yesterday.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Kath Stagoll said falsely representing to be a returned serviceman was a serious offence.
Sgt Stagoll said the defence's claim that Lenihan's actions did not cause injury, loss or damage was not true.
"His actions caused significant loss. Not to a business in monetary terms but to individuals and their honour," she said.
"The honour that veterans feel from risking their lives abroad cannot be taken lightly."
She said Lenihan's decision to lie about military service was disrespectful to the real heroes of the community.
More than a dozen veterans wore their service decorations and sat together in the public gallery in protest.
She wrapped up her argument by suggesting Lenihan's intentions might not have been for financial gain but he did benefit in trying to build rapport with board members by posing as a military veteran.
Defence lawyer Travis George handed up several documents to Mr Duroux, including a psychological report, reference letters he said showed the positive steps the club had taken under Lenihan's watch and media reports on the matter.
"My client was going to get paid a salary irrespective of his performance. You can't say he benefited from the offence," Mr George said.
He argued media attention around the case had subjected Lenihan to public shaming.
He requested Mr Duroux consider a good behaviour bond and not record a conviction.
"My client is 52 years old and does not have a criminal history," Mr George said.
"He has been a man of good character and realised the significance of the offences."
The magistrate said he did not consider the matter to be trivial.
Mr Duroux said lying about service abroad was "insulting to veterans".
"To falsely claim that distinction is the highest disregard for the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women for our country's values," he said.
He agreed with the prosecution that the offence was serious and warranted a recorded conviction.
Lenihan was fined $750.
"It wasn't a once off thing. You continued the lie from January 2018 to March 2019," he said.
Lenihan was also fined $250 for the drug offence.
That conviction was not recorded.